Torino

The following article is written by guest contributer Peter Brunning. Peter is a retired legal administrator who, although not a juggler, has a keen interest in the history of juggling. He has published biographical articles on Cinquevalli and Gintaro, and is working on a longer study of Gintaro currently.

***********************************

Cinquevalli was the first juggling superstar, but not much has been published previously on his star pupil – William Campbell – better known as Torino.   William Campbell was born in the Scottish town of Hamilton, Lanarkshire on 21 October 1879, but very shortly afterwards, the family settled in America.  William next came to public attention when, aged 19, he enlisted in the American army to fight in the American-Spanish war of 1898. He later told a newspaper that he was on a cycling holiday when hostilities broke out and that he cut short the holiday and joined up.   William took part in some of the fighting and was apparently offered a commission at the end of the war, but preferred vaudeville.  In later life, he was the proud recipient of a pension for his military service. He and his brother George initially worked together in American vaudeville as the Campbell Brothers – jugglers and ‘musical bag punchers’, but that partnership came to an end in December 1903 and William developed a performing career separate from his brother George.

William was next part of The Tennis Trio, which offered juggling with a tennis theme.   The Tennis Trio had been in existence since 1899.  The trio changed performers quite a bit, and William Campbell joined in 1903.  By 1906, the trio consisted of Campbell and May and Alma Stock. George Campbell had helped his brother with the development of the trio’s act[i]. The opening, whereby a darkened stage was slowly illuminated, was taken from the performances of the original Campbell brothers and it was something they were proud to have originated.  William was to remain with the trio for seven years. The group “manipulate tennis rackets and balls in a graceful and artistic manner” wrote a reviewer of a performance at the Grand Opera House Spokane Washington in 1908.  For much more on The Tennis Trio, click here to read Scott Cain’s interesting article.

The Tennis Trio

William then developed a solo act juggling act as Will Campbell. The seven minute act was described in an American newspaper[ii] in October 1910 as follows:

Campbell saunters onto the stage attired in check flannels. After a neat routine with tennis rackets, tennis balls and Indian clubs, he removes his coat and does the letter-writing trick. This feat, while not new, is cleverly done by Campbell. He follows with some plate tossing and closes with coin spinning on an open Japanese parasol. He regulates the speed of the coin, stops it and then sends it rolling with great speed again. Campbell’s tendency to work too far upstage put the audience at a disadvantage. Baring this, he delivers the goods.

 William left America for England in December 1910. His motives for the journey probably included a desire to have easier access to theatres in Europe. His professional career in this country, under the new stage name of ‘Torino’, started later that month. The name certainly had the effect of suggesting to some of his audiences that he was ‘Continental’, perhaps with the implication that he did a silent act because he could not speak English. On 23 December, he appeared at the Grand Theatre Bedford.  The following[iii] is a review of his first London performance:

Will Campbell (now playing as ‘Torino’) did his first juggling in London last week at the Bedford Music Hall. Campbell should have little trouble over here with his very neat performance. He goes after the hard stuff, without any stalling whatsoever. The stage lighting at the Bedford did not help the juggler any.

From about 1911 – 1918, William’s brother George Campbell and his wife had toured English theatres in a combined juggling/dancing act known as Campbell and Brady.  George was to return to England in 1920/21 and on other occasions as ‘George Latour’ doing a juggling act to the accompaniment of humorous patter. There is a short film of part of his act: A Study in Jugology (1939), which you can see below.

George continued to be based in America.  Whether by intention or force of circumstance, he spent much of World War I and World War II entertaining in England.

On 12 July 1911, William returned on the Olympic to America. He arrived in New York on 19 July.   He seems to have worked there under the name of Will Campbell. However, on 21 October 1911, an advertisement appeared in the American theatrical press which read “In Memoriam – The Passing of Will Campbell.  After using the above name in vaudeville for fourteen years, it will be discontinued by me”.  The notice stated Campbell/Torino had left America for England on 18 October.  On 23 April 1914, Torino arrived again in America for a visit.

Death of William Campbell

Torino spent much of 1914 – 1915 working abroad. He performed in South Africa, India and Australia. In the early part of 1914, Torino was juggling in South Africa. He was ‘The King of Jugglers’ at the Gaiety Theatre in New Delhi on 3 August 1914; two days before Britain’s declaration of war on Germany.  The stay in Australia started on 25 August with his arrival at Freemantle, and lasted about three months. His stage set had a Japanese theme (‘A fête in Japan’) while his assistant (we do not know his name) was Chinese.  In mid-September 1914, Torino was in Adelaide[iv]:

The opening of his offering – a striking Japanese scene – is a picture in itself, and holds the audience spellbound. He was first seen taking his ease in a handsome hammock, with a Japanese sunshade, from which he lighted Chinese lanterns above him, the whole having a very taking effect.  Their (sic) appears to be nothing with which he cannot juggle, and juggle cleanly and cleverly. The colour effects produced by his varied apparatus, many of which rival soap bubbles in beauty, add greatly to the effectiveness of his performance.  He does feats with a tennis racket and balls that appear impossible. He kicked a matchbox into the air with his heals and obtained a light as it descended over his head. He opened a flying letter with a snip of a scissors and caught the pen with which he has written the reply behind his ear deftly. He turned a glass of water upside down without spilling a drop, and caused plates and Indian clubs to perform evolutions which around great enthusiasm, and as a finale he revolved a Japanese sunshade rapidly, causing first a plate and then a coin to run round the top, dance the “Merry Widow” waltz and perform numerous evolutions

In November, Torino introduced a new trick whereby a small cannon, operated by his foot, fired a billiard cue above the stage to the flies. Torino then caught the cue on his forehead as it plummeted down. He told one journalist[v] he had spent nine months perfecting this.

Torino was again in America in 1916, and swore on oath, somewhat implausibly, that since his arrival in that country in 1879, he had lived there continuously. He was duly granted American citizenship and promptly departed again for England in May 1916. The purpose of this process was probably to safeguard himself against the conscription measures which were then going through the English parliament. Torino had fought in one war and had no wish to fight in another.

His popularity with theatre managements in England and abroad continued.

Owing to his successful appearance at the Palladium a few weeks ago, Torino has been engaged by the Syndicate for a tour of their halls; he opened on Monday at East Ham. Mr Oswald Stoll has also booked the clever juggler for a week at the London Coliseum on April 23 [1917]. Torino has not been seen very often in London of late years, but he has been very successful on the Continent and in the English provinces.

Torino Uncropped

He began another five-month provincial tour in July 1917 and in December 1918 married in London 24-year-old May Dorothy (‘Doris’) Whiteley, who was a professional performer in music hall and who may have been related to The Five Whiteleys (an acrobatic and juggling troupe who were popular at the time). George Campbell was a witness at the wedding. Doris acted as Torino’s on-stage assistant and was specifically billed as such. From September 1918, his publicity proudly claimed he was Cinquevalli’s only pupil.  A 1919 performance at the Palladium in London attracted this comment[vi]:

Juggling, one had been let to believe, was one of the lost arts. Those who have faith in that fiction must be persuaded to see Torino, a slim good looking young man, who unaccountably fell into the last number in the Palladium programme. Hundreds of people must have gone away and missed the smartest show in town. Who Torino is, and where he comes from, I do not care. I only know that he is the cleverest, dandiest, quickest disciple of this so called “lost art” I have seen since goodness knows when.  There is a fortune in those deft supple fingers and those grave keen eyes. If Torino wants a cigarette her jerks the matchbox high into space, and strikes the match smartly against the falling box. If he wants to open a letter he flips that up, too, and slips the cover with a knife on the descent. But the real touch and go business is the manipulation of two billiard balls, one above the other, between two billiard ball cues. I can’t explain this trick, but I hope to see it again. Torino has a beautiful stage setting for his entertainment, and a pretty little girl to catch the billiard balls when they fall – if they ever do.

The effect with the billiard balls described above was an invention of Cinquevalli. Initially I thought Torino had acted as an assistant to Cinquevalli following the death of Walter Burford, his assistant of ten years, in 1909. This seems less likely given the fact that at that time, Torino was working as an independent performer in music halls and no longer a novice.

If the adoption of the stage name Torino, with its linguistic similarity to ‘Cinquevalli,’ happened when he studied under Cinquevalli, then the lessons must have been in 1911, though I think this unlikely.  Torino’s performances in Australia in 1914 overlapped with what was in fact Cinquevalli’s ‘farewell tour’ of Australia.  This may have been the occasion on which Torino received lessons from him. Torino wrote (in an article in The Performer) that Cinquevalli had given him almost all of his jugging props, and I believe that their friendship developed after Cinquevalli retired from the stage in 1914[vii]. Torino was surprised when he saw that Cinquevalli’s old press cuttings books contained descriptions of juggling effects that the master had originated and which others has subsequently claimed as their own. There are no reports of Torino using Cinquevalli’s material while Cinquevalli was still a working performer.

For those not familiar with the more famous juggler – Paul Cinquevalli (Emil Otto Paul Braun) was a hugely popular stage juggler and entertainer in the late 19th and early 20th century.  He retired from the professional stage when he was about 55 years old, and died four years later on 14 July 1918.  He was buried in West Norwood cemetery. The impressive monument also commemorates his wife Adelina whom he married shortly after his arrival in England in 1885, and his second wife Dora (whom he married in Australia in 1909).

In 1919, it seems as if Torino, on occasions, also used the Chinese stage assistant he had used in Australia five years previously and four years prior to his marriage to Doris. The following is from The Era[viii]:

Torino interests you at once by his strange setting, and the anxious little Chinaman who, while assisting him, seems to be praying to Confucius that his master’s nerve will not fail him. As a juggler pure and simple, Torino has few equals. Perhaps his cleverest feat is his least spectacular one, in which he holds out a couple of billiard cues and “urges” two billiard balls, one on top of the other, to proceed along between them without falling. (Aren’t jugglers’ tricks difficult to explain?) But it is not exactly child’s play, either, to catch a pen flung upwards behind your ear.

Torino - Advertisement - 1938 Christmas - The Performer - From Collection of Peter Lane (791x1143)Photo of Torino from The Performer – From the Collection of Peter Lane

In a later performance at the Shoreditch Olympia, the billiard ball effect was again given special mention in a review. The reader was also told that Torino would be working in the provinces and also abroad in Europe until July of the following year.  A week later, on Christmas Eve 1919, Torino was at the Hippodrome in Nottingham.

The act was at the Olympia music hall in Paris in February 1920, and contained tennis-themed material that Torino had been performing since his time with The Tennis Trio in the 1900s.  Torino and Doris worked in America for three months at the end of 1921, when part of the ten-minute act was described as follows:

His billiard cue work is exactly as Cinquevalli did it. There re other bits as strikingly resembling Torino’s tutor’s work. Torino opens in pretty garden scene hammock etc. with a nice looking blonde young woman handling the props. He starts with a tennis racket. Among his best [tricks] is striking a light on a match box thrown between his heels over his head.

In September 1921, Torino was due to close a first night bill at the Winter Garden in New York. The preceding act was a well-known singer and comedian named Nora Bayes.  On that occasion, the management decided that Torino should not appear because Nora Bayes received such an enthusiastic reception. Or, as Variety, reported: because the walk out on Torino after Bayes would have ruined him.  On a similar theme, a reviewer of a July 1922 performance at the Chiswick Empire in England, complained[ix] that ‘Torino has been given too lowly a place on the bill. He was one of our finest jugglers, and his act is so finely presented, and an offering so attractive demands a better place on the bill.’

Torino may have received good reviews, but in England of the 1920s, ‘variety’ was undergoing fierce competition from other forms of popular entertainment. The leading articles of a show business newspaper[x] stated:

 The prospect before the ordinary variety act seems dreary. Their stronghold is assailed by all kinds of entertainments – drama, opera, review, pantomime, cinema.

Some performers have had to seek alternative forms of employment while waiting for professional engagements: One has opened a boot shop, and one fairly well-known comedian ran a pleasure launch at the seaside during the season, while another started a chicken farm.

The well-known comedian ‘Little Titch’ was even blunter[xi]:

Everyone knows I think that there has been a crusade against variety artists with a view to cutting down their salaries. And it is a well-known fact that if you cut them down salaries have a tendency to get lower and lower….As managements continue to pay big prices for American acts, in seems to me that British acts are not wanted in their own country.

It may be for these reasons that the couple were again in America in 1924 and often worked abroad.  The American periodical Variety had this to say about him in 1927:

Torino nearly stopped the performance. In a class alone as a juggler for the work that he does, along the Cinquevalli lines. [The Lowe theatre chain] office can spot [employ] him anywhere and he’ll stand up.

In May 1928, a journalist wrote:

He carries an exceptionally well-equipped stage-layout, and Doris Whiteley, blonde baby, who attracts considerable attention to herself.

Torino was headlining in Australia in late 1928, and by then, his billing was ‘Greater than Cinquevalli himself – he commands the biggest salary in variety to-day and he’s worth it!’ We may be sure that the statement about the size of Torino’s salary is an exaggeration, but it is nonetheless apparent that the act was successful. There were other jugglers active in Europe at the time (e.g. the Eliott/Stetson family in England), but Torino seems to have been one of the more active and successful (excluding stellar performers such as Rastelli).

On the 1928 Australian tour, Torino explained his involvement with Cinquevalli by saying that the juggler encountered Torino when he first assisted Cinquevalli as a volunteer from the audience. Cinquevalli recognized his volunteer’s talent, and personally trained him. There is no other mention of Cinquevalli using such volunteer assistants and this account does not seem very credible.

Some believe that in 1928, Torino and Doris worked in Canada. January 1929 saw the couple at the Wintergarten Theatre in Berlin; he had previously appeared there in 1926.  In March 1929, they started a four week or so engagement at the Hansa Theatre in Hamburg. Torino later wrote a report by way of a letter[xii]:

After a zig-zag trip round the world via Australia I arrived in Europe, opening at the Winter Garden Berlin. Last month I played the Hansa Theatre Hamburg and this month it is the Savoy Hotel London, where the very considerate management sends the waiter round for our order. That is the way they treat a novelty act. These are month stands, no split weeks. I am re-engaged for return dates, so I am not worrying about talking pictures, New York’s enormous baggage-handling rates and other unmentionables.

An amateur juggler, J B Findlay, published[xiii] a short recollection of an encounter with Torino:

Torino was a wonderful juggler, and though he appeared in Glasgow only twice in a period of twenty-one years, I saw him on both occasions. When I reminded him of the first time I saw him and described part of his beautiful act, all he could say was, “My God, that’s correct!”

In the 1930s, the couple had a home in Hove, England. Doris Campbell died there on 5 August 1936 aged only 43[xiv]. The Performer, a music hall newspaper, carried obituary notices from her husband and other friends. One notice was from ‘Chinko’ (the brother Teddy Knox, a member of the Crazy Gang group of comedians), who started as a boy juggler and whose stage name took the first part of ‘Cinquevalli’ and added the Japanese suffix for ‘child’ (ko).

Subsequent issues of the newspaper had small notices from Torino showing his address at 53 Sackville Road Hove. The usual information about current and forthcoming professional engagements was omitted; only his contact details were provided. Torino arranged that Doris be buried not in Hove, but in in West Norwood Cemetery, a few metres from the family grave of his former teacher, Cinquevalli.  In the probate papers relating to his wife’s death, Torino is described as a “retired music hall artist”.  Professional juggling demands a high level of physical fitness. There are few signs of Torino working in theatres during most of the 1930s.

Torino Obit to wife

Whatever the state of his own career, Torino continued his involvement with music hall profession. In November 1935 and April 1937, he took part in a performance given by the “Variety Knights” (A Variety Artists Federation concert party) and in November he was among the mourners at the funeral of JE Pierce (who was one half of a well-known singing act). In March 1939, he was elected again to the Executive Committee of the Variety Artists Federation, an organisation he had held elected office in since the early 1920s.

The death of Doris plainly caused Torino to reassess his personal situation.  In April 1938, he became a naturalised British subject, thus reverting to his nationality at birth. The Home Office certificate refers to him as a retired actor (In his travels abroad, Torino often described himself as an actor).  We do not know what motivated Torino to revert to British nationality, though in 1937 the VAF had passed a resolution regretting to number of “alien performers” working in the country to the detriment of British artistes; this was a continuing concern of the Federation.  In any event, shortly afterwards, a new lady entered Torino’s life and caused him to resume his professional juggling career.

Torino remarried in 1942 when he was 63. His new wife was 24-year-old Eileen Slater; a blonde haired music hall dancer who had been his stage assistant since about 1939.  It is believed that they met while Torino was working in Germany.  Eileen’s brother also worked in music hall. In his act, Torino was assisted by ‘Joyanita Cole’, which was a stage name of Eileen’s.  A daughter (Joy Torina Campbell) had been born to the couple in early November 1940, and Torino’s return to the professional stage was probably prompted by the need to financially support his new family. The marriage may have taken place because Torino was seriously ill and the couple wished to regularise their situation.  He died of cancer on 23 February 1943 in Charing Cross hospital London aged 64.

In Memory of Torino

William Campbell is buried in West Norwood cemetery in England, not far from the grave of his teacher Cinquevalli.   Torino’s estate was valued at £1600 (about £60,000 at current prices at a conservative estimate). For the duration of the funeral arrangements, Eileen stayed at 84 Queens Road Twickenham. William was buried in the same grave as his first wife in West Norwood, though the headstone does not record this.

TorinoGrave

Eileen continued to work as a dancer, performing in the Marguis [or Marquis] Adagio Trio, using the name of her young daughter, Joy Torina, as a stage name.  In early 1945, that group and two others came together to form the Olympic Adagio Troupe. This new ensemble performed in a show called The Night and the Music at the London Coliseum.

A well-known comedian acted as a link between various interludes depicting festivities in ancient Rome.   The role of the adagio dancers seems to have been to simulate tossing Christian girls to the lions!  Despite the incongruous theme, the show ran for 16 months.  The Marguis Trio made a short film called She Flies Thro’ the Air in 1946. Joy Torina is one of the named participants. It is worth comparing this short to Pure and Simple (1939). This film was shown in a television programme from Alexandra Palace in London.  There was also a film called simply Marquis Trio (1942). All these can be viewed on YouTube.

Eileen then met and married an American named Alfred Schmidt. One of Eileen’s relatives believes that Eileen and Alfred met in Germany when he was with the Adagio troupe. In 1947, she and her young daughter immigrated to America (arriving on 8 August 1947) and settled there, probably in Weehawken New Jersey.[xv] In late 1949, Eileen was performing as a member of the Dior Dancers in New York. This grouping lasted for about a year, and then she too retired from the professional stage.  Her son Alfred Schmidt Jr. was born on 2 March 1952.  At about this time, George Latour (Torino’s brother) stopped being an active performer and became a booking agent for variety and circus acts. He died in New York in 1958.

Eileen’s new husband died in 1954, and the following year, Eileen and Joy, with three year old Alfred, made a two month return visit to the United Kingdom. Their address in London was given as Olvelli’s in Store Street[xvi]. Eileen and her daughter were described in the Mauritania’s (first class) manifest as ‘students’, but their purpose seems to have been to visit the country they had left almost ten years previously.

 


[i] Variety 8 August 1908 page 9

[ii]  Variety 1 October 1910 page 16

[iii] Variety 14 January 1911 page 11

[iv] The Mail (Adelaide) 12 September 1914 page 4. See also The Sunday Times (Sydney) 8 November 1914 page 6

[v] Referee (Sydney) 4 November 1914 page 15

[vi] The Stage 29 May 1919 page 13

[vii] The Performer 5 September 1918.

[viii]  29 October 1914 page 14

[ix] The Stage 27 July 1922 page 10

[x] The Era 22 February 1923 page 13, 16 January 1924.

[xi] The Era 12 December 1923 page 11. Tich’s own response was to go and work in Paris. He spoke French well.

[xii] Variety 18 May 1929 page //

[xiii] Abracadabra Volume 17 (1954)  page 310

[xiv] The Torinos’ address was 53 Sackville Road. Torino later moved to 114 Lansdowne Crescent Hove.

[xv] In her last night in England, Eileen stayed at a continental pension at 35 Store Street in Holborn; the address that Torino had given at their marriage in 1943.

[xvi] The correct address was number 35; the ship’s manifest had Olivell’s pension as 13 Store Street.

Guest Writer

You can contribute to the eZine, too! Just email us at the link in the Contact Us section at the top of the page...

Leave a Reply